The American people recently learned some outrageous news. It seems some members of Congress have used taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims against them. Florida Republican Ron DeSantis has introduced a new bill to deal with this.
CNS News reports:
House Bill Would Name Those Who Have Used Taxpayer Funds to Settle Sex Harassment Claims
Legislation introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) last month would require the Congressional Office of Compliance to submit to Congress the names of those members who have used taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims, require the members to reimburse the U.S. Treasury, and void non-disclosure agreements so victims can tell their stories.
The “Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act,” introduced by DeSantis on Nov. 30, currently has 88 co-sponsors.
“What does it say about the sincerity of Congress in combatting harassment when members and staff can have taxpayers cover for their misconduct while keeping it all secret?,” DeSantis said in a statement. “This legislation will protect taxpayers by making congressional settlement data public, barring tax dollars from being used to bail out congressional misconduct and requiring reimbursement of the treasury by members and staff who have had taxpayer-financed settlements paid on their behalf. The bill will also allow victims to speak publicly about harassment suffered irrespective of any non-disclosure agreements.”
According to the bill, “Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Office of Compliance shall submit to Congress and make available to the public on the Office’s public website a report on all payments made with public funds prior to the date of the enactment of this Act for awards and settlements in connection with violations of section 201(a)(1) of the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995.”
It also prohibits the use of public funds for future sexual harassment settlements and requires those who have used taxpayer funds for claims to repay the Treasury.
The bill bans future nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) and allows those who have signed NDAs in the past as a condition of the settlement to “make public any information relating to the award or settlement.”
“Members of Congress and staff cannot live under special rules,” DeSantis said. “The current system incentivizes misconduct and makes it difficult for victims. By exposing these secret settlements and by discontinuing using tax dollars to pay for member misconduct, this bill will reduce the incentive for bad behavior and bring more accountability to Congress.”
According to the Congressional office of Compliance, since Fiscal Year 1997 Congress has paid out more than $17 million to settle 264 workplace claims from a Treasury Fund created by the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act.
It’s about time this was dealt with. If taxpayer funds are used then taxpayers have a right to full transparency.